The Atlas of New Librarianship: Knowledge Creation

Conversational Cataloging: Incorporating  “scapes” into reference and library cataloging

I have always been frustrated by the experience of looking something up in a library catalog.  Often even when you enter the exact title of the “artifact” that you are searching for, it will be buried in the middle our bottom of the results list.  A scapes function in the cataloging software could really help with this problem, saving time for both the patron and the reference librarian, as well as helping the seeker find unknown things they may want to check out.

We already employ similar tools: pathfinders in academic libraries or simple topical book lists in school or public libraries.  The practicing librarian who taught the best class I took at SUNY Albany often offered the class this advise:  as soon as we are asked the same question twice, it’s time to create some kind of guide to have ready the next time.  This would work in catalog searches if the function were made available.

Incorporating a scape function is valuable to save time for everyone involved, but there is value beyond efficiency.  Netflix, Amazon, and other retail websites have a “things you might like” function.  This makes sense in retail since they really want you to buy more things while you are there.  The scape function could operate in a similar way, matching users up to similar materials or materials that others have enjoyed.  Making connections, sharing interests and preferences, and improving learning experiences; these are the things that make our field rewarding!

For my gateway class at Syracuse University I was assigned to read and blog about my professor David Lankes’ most recent book, The Atlas of New Librarianship.


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